Unless you can survive without sleep or food or your parents have lots and lots of money, it’s tough being an emerging artist in New York these days. Studio spaces are expensive, the fancy gallerists and dealers don’t give a shit about you and neither do their patrons. On the flip side, unless you’re a gazillionare and/or have a formal art education, buying art in New York can be a rather daunting endeavor (the fancy gallerists and dealers don’t give a shit about you either).
Enter NewPatron, a community for unknown yet promising artists and art enthusiasts that aims to provide funding as well as a platform to connect said emerging artists with similarly emerging buyers, gallerists and dealers. Founded by Bay Hudner, the project is launching this Sunday with a pop-up exhibition in the small, narrow space on the Bowery that hosted the in December.
“The channels in place are way too narrow,” says Hudner. “On the collector side, people feel intimidated and as an artist you may be working three jobs to cover your practice. You don’t have enough hours in the day to create your work.” She notes one artist already involved with NewPatron, Michael Ellis, who wakes up every morning at 3 a.m. to work on his photorealistic paintings for four hours before heading off to work as a studio assistant to a prominent contemporary artist.
Though Hudner doesn’t have any formal experience in the art world, she grew up in its presence (her mom is an artist) and saw her friends struggling to cover rent and purchase materials.
Hudner was inspired to start NewPatron while working at a tech accelerator in London, of all places. “We’re taking the tech model,” she says. “Fast and cheap with minimal overhead.”
The first artists Hudner approached were friends and friends of friends; later she would seek out introductions to artists whose work caught her eye in group shows. Her goal is to eventually forge partnerships with curators and gallerists in order to ensure NewPatron represents a breadth of viewpoints and aesthetics, all with the common thread of high-quality, thoughtful work. “I’m not trying to be a gallerist or a curator espousing a single aesthetic or philosophy,” she says.
One NewPatron artist, James Powers (you may remember him as the 40-Year-Old Hipster‘s illustrator), is drawn to the value the platform places on forming relationships for emerging artists while respecting their craft and vision. “There’s a lot of crass mercantilism out there,” he says, specifically noting the online galleries whose goals seem purely monetary. “NP promises to be more about building a relationship with collectors and mentors,” he says.
Though there is an online component to the platform, Hudner stresses the importance of the offline element. She wishes to connect patrons with emerging artists – to create relationships. These relationships occasionally involve money. Patrons (i.e. people with money) support the practice of (i.e. give money to) the artists in exchange for works or “experiences,” which can be anything from a painting lesson to a private dinner in an artists’ studio. Patrons can also help organize events to promote artists or introduce them to other patrons. This means you don’t necessarily have to have tons of idle cash to participate.
Speaking of cash, NewPatron does take a commission off works sold through its platform, however Hudner stresses that this figure is significantly less than that of traditional galleries (which can run as high as 50 percent). “I’m told I should go higher!” she says.
Young artists and gallerists who express frustration with the New York art scene are far from uncommon. However, there are continuously an exemplary few who manage to become superstars despite how cliquey and mean the industry can be (Lucien Smith, Petra Collins and the members of the Red Hook-based collective The Still House Group come to mind as recent examples). Sure, some of the young and successful may have had some financial backing from mommy and daddy or an art world connection or two, but isn’t that the case in most industries?
Currently, participation in NewPatron is by invite only, but Hudner hopes to expand the community following the official launch on Sunday. “We’re trying to say these are some artists making interesting work,” she says. “It’s an access point.”
The NewPatron pop-up exhibition opens this Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 355 Bowery and runs Monday – Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.